APEC trade ministers’ unite on COVID-19 vaccine steps and rejuvenating the WTO
APEC trade ministers today committed to speeding up the cross-border flow of vaccines and related goods to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
This followed the completion of the APEC Ministers Responsible for Trade Meeting chaired by Minister for Trade and Export Growth Damien O’Connor early this morning.
“As we face the biggest health and economic crisis of our lifetimes, I was greatly heartened to see how we united to make progress. We represent half of global GDP and wanted to use trade as a force for good,” Damien O’Connor said.
“We know nobody is safe until everybody is safe from COVID-19, and we know that our region prospers economically by keeping our markets open to one another rather than closing ourselves off. APEC Trade Ministers today agreed to:
- Act now to speed the flow of vaccines and vaccine-related goods by eliminating trade restrictions that increase the cost of vaccines and the goods that support them;
- A set of guidelines for their Customs authorities to ensure vaccines flow through ports and airports as quickly as possible so they are not sitting idle;
- Remove barriers to freight and logistics services to support trade in vaccines and vaccine-related goods to help fight the pandemic.”
“It is encouraging to see APEC trade ministers working together to respond in practical, concrete terms to the COVID pandemic and rebuild our economies,” he said.
Minister of State for Trade and Export Growth, Phil Twyford, who represented New Zealand at the meeting, said APEC had returned to its traditional role of championing multilateralism by:
- Rejuvenating the World Trade Organisation and injecting momentum into a series of trade negotiations with the aim of concluding these by the end of this year.
- Doubling down on a sustainable recovery by pushing the World Trade Organisation to agree governments should not pay subsidies that encourage over-fishing and to finish their negotiations by the end of July.
- Starting to reform subsidies to the fossil fuel industry that are contributing to the climate crisis.
“I would also like to acknowledge the important work led by Minister of Customs Meka Whaitiri and the New Zealand Customs Service to publish the Best Practice Guidelines for APEC Customs Administrations.
“This was a New Zealand-led APEC initiative, which is intended to help fast track the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines so they aren’t held up at borders and are distributed to people in a safe and timely manner,” Phil Twyford said.